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March 13: That amazing grace will lead us home to heaven into the arms of the Father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

March 13, 2022                                    Second Sunday of Lent

Introduction

Have you ever had one of those moments or experiences that you wish you could just freeze in time?

  • It was a time when everything was just right and Life was so perfect that you wished the experience would never end.
  •  Maybe it was a wonderful day with friends or maybe it was a vacation. 
  • Maybe it was a beautiful place that you visited. 
  • It was a moment when everything seemed peaceful, joyous and just right.
  •  It was an experience that you wished you could prolong forever and never end.

Readings

Our readings today provide two such experiences.

Abraham 

In the first reading we meet Abraham. God has made Abraham a fantastic promise.

  • He promises Abraham and Sarah that their descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven.
  • Furthermore, God promises them that he will give them a piece of land, a country that will be their own.

It is an amazing promise.

  • God tells Abraham to look up at the sky and count the stars if you can.
  • He tells him, “Your descendants will be just that numerous”.
  • Have you ever tried to count the stars in the night sky?
  • There are lots of them.
  • However, there’s more. If God had taken Abraham outside at night and told him to count the stars, it would be amazing enough. 
  • Something strange happens. 
  • God takes him out during the daytime. 
  • Later in our reading it says the sun sets and a terrible darkness encompasses the land.
  • It becomes one of those life changing moments in Abraham’s life.
  • It is a moment he will never forget when life and future all come together in a single moment.

Abraham enters into a trance and the covenant between God and Abraham is sealed.

Faith of Abraham 

There is more to the story than this. At the heart of the experience is Abrahams faith.

  • God makes a tremendous promise.
  • It is a promise of descendants and land.
  •  However, at this point Abraham and Sarah are childless.
  • They are advanced in age and the prospect of childbearing has passed.
  • When God showed Abraham the stars and it was daylight, it demanded faith
  • Even though Abraham could not see the stars, he knew they were there.
  • The same is true of the promise. 
  • Abraham trusted, that in spite of what seemed impossible, God could do what he promised.

Abraham believed and God fulfilled the covenant promise.

Transfiguration 

The gospel for today contains the magnificent description of the transfiguration.

  • Early in the morning Jesus summons Peter, John and James and tells them that they are going for a hike.
  •  They are going to climb Mount Tabor located in central Galilee.
  • Actually, it is an extinct volcano.
  • The climb would have been a challenge since the mountain is quite steep.
  • Once they arrive at the summit, they have a spectacular view of Galilee.
  • Jesus raises his hands in prayer.
  • Suddenly, before their eyes Jesus undergoes a magnificent transformation.
  • His clothes become dazzling white and his face as bright as the sun itself.
  • Within moments, two men appear: Moses and Elijah who seem to be speaking to Jesus. 
  • They are conversing about what will soon happen in Jerusalem.
  • The disciples are entirely overcome by the splendor of the moment.
  •  It becomes one of those defining moments that Peter hoped would never end.
  • Everything was perfect. Peter exclaims, “Lord, it is good that we are here!”
  • If possible, Peter wished that this moment would endure forever.
  • Obviously, it would in the memory of his heart.
  • A voice is heard from the cloud, “this is my chosen Son, listen to him” 
  • Within moments, the vision stops and they all fall silent. What an experience! 
  • The glory of God had permeated every molecule and atom of the human body of Jesus.
  • he Transfiguration was unforgettable.

Faith

Faith of Abraham 

Each of these stories speak to us of the importance of faith.

  • Abraham believed in God‘s promises.
  • Even though he and Sarah were in their 80’s, he believed that somehow God would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.
  • Even though Abraham could not see the stars during the daylight hours, he knew they were there.
  • He trusted that God would be faithful.

Faith of the Apostles 

The same thing is true for Peter, James and John.

  • At the time of the Transfiguration they did not realize the future events that would unfold.
  • This moment of transfiguration and glory would be impressed into their memory forever.
  • Their faith in Jesus would be strengthened by this vision when they viewed his arrest, suffering and crucifixion.
  • Jesus permitted this moment so that, in spite of the future suffering and death, they would remember that truly he is The son of God.

God is with us

On this second Sunday of Lent we are reminded that we are called to be people of faith.

  • Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for and the conviction of things that we do not see.
  •  It is the realization that God loves us and walks with us in the journey of life.
  • In spite of difficulties, struggles and problems. God is with us.
  • He promised Abraham.
  • He promised the apostles.
  • He promises us as well.

Conclusion

In the Transfiguration The disciples kept their eyes focused on Jesus.

  • In those moments they witnessed the manifestation of his glory.
  • Similarly, we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus as well.
  • When we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the power of faith will guide us through difficulties and struggles.
  • The Transfiguration of Jesus speaks to us about our own transformation.
  • By the power of God‘s grace, we too are being transformed.

That amazing grace will lead us home to heaven into the arms of the Father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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March 6: Temptation as opportunity for growth

March 6, 2022                                                First Sunday of Lent

Introduction

I’m going to start out by asking you a question, “are you closer to God today than you were on the first Sunday of Lent last year”

  1. In other words, are you a better Christian than you were a year ago or are you holier today than you were a year ago.
  2. Those are difficult questions.
  3. At times, they might make us uncomfortable.
  4. That’s good because when we are uncomfortable, our spirit becomes restless.
  5. Lent is the time to be uncomfortable.
  6. Frequently when we are uncomfortable it signals an opportunity to grow.

Lent is the time to return to basics.

  1. It is the time to strip away all that is superficial and concentrate on that which is essential in our spiritual journey.
  2. By nature, we are hard wired for God.
  3. As St. Augustine put it, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you O Lord.”

The Gospel

On this first Sunday of Lent Saint Luke records the temptations of Jesus.

  • Jesus himself enters deeply into the human experience of facing the lure of Temptation.

First Temptation 

The first temptation begins rather strangely.

  • Satan starts out with these words, “if you are the son of God then turn these stones into bread.”
  • The case may be that the devil was uncertain concerning Jesus’ true identity.
  • Maybe he wasn’t so sure that Jesus was the Savior or the Son of God.
  •  As a result, he prefaces his temptation with a condition: “if you are the Son of God…”
  • Jesus is hungry after having fasted for 40 days.
  • The devil is tempting Jesus to give into sensual pleasure and satisfy his appetite. 

Application

Seeking Pleasure is at the heart of this first temptation.

  • The devil is tempting Jesus to make physical pleasure the center of his life. 
  • Sometimes, we are tempted in the same direction.
  • When life is difficult and problem and struggles arise, we can be tempted to lose our self in pleasure.
  • Jesus responds, “One does not live on bread alone.”
  • The implication is that the human soul can never be truly satisfied by the pleasures of this world.

Second temptation 

Then we come to the second temptation.

At this point the devil leads Jesus up to a high mountain and displays for him all of the kingdoms of the world and all of their riches.

  • The devil tells him all of this can be yours if you fall down before me.
  •  This is a temptation toward power.
  • Jesus ‘response is very simple. “You shall worship the Lord your God and him alone.”
  •  Jesus wants us to know that there is no power on earth hat can ever quiet the longings of the human heart.

Application

There is a desire in each of us to control.

  • Power means control.
  • We like to control others, ourselves and most of all, our future.
  • That’s the reason why we have war and conflicts.
  • So many times, people have found the desire and pursuit of power irresistible.

Third temptation 

The final temptation is a temptation to pride.

  • Finally, Satan takes Jesus to one of the towers of the temple in Jerusalem.
  • There, he urges him to throw himself down, confident that God will take care of him and send angels to protect him.
  • There still must have been some doubt and frustration in the devil’s maneuvering since he begins this final temptation with the same words that initiated the first one, “if you are the Son of God.…”
  • Although this temptation is subtle, it is most clever.
  • The temptation to pride is to put oneself at the center of the universe.
  • Even so making God himself one of his attendants or servants.

Application

In selfishness, it’s easy to think the world revolves around ourselves and our interests and needs.

  • The sin of pride was the devil’s own sin that caused him to fall.
  • He wanted to be in control and be like God.
  • Actually, he thought he was equal or superior to God himself.
  • Jesus responds, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test!”

Temptation in our lives

We face temptations every day.

  • Most of them are temptations in small things.
  • However once in a while, we are tempted in a big way.
  • n the gospel story Jesus confronts temptation and remains faithful and obedient to the Father. 
  • Actually in the gospel, Jesus confronts the root of human temptation and sinfulness: pleasure, power and pride.
  • In one way or another those temptations continue to plague humanity.
  • They form the basis for the temptations that each of us confronts.
  • In realizing our weaknesses and temptations, we are in a better place to be able to overcome them with the grace of God.
  • Getting to know the root of our sinfulness and temptations arms us more affectively in our spiritual battle against evil.

Temptation as opportunity for growth 

Remember, temptation is not sin.

  1. In fact every temptation is really an opportunity for us to exercise our trust in the power of God‘s grace.
  2. Jesus was tempted and remained faithful.
  3. Jesus has overcome temptation.
  4. With his grace we too can overcome the temptations in our lives.

Conclusion

During these Lenten days we are invited to focus on the basics of our spiritual life.

  • On this first Sunday of lent we are confronted with our own temptations.
  • By his obedience and faithfulness to the Father, we are reminded that Jesus has overcome temptation.
  • Through prayer and fasting we discipline our wills.
  •  In Our Lenten practices we strengthen our willpower.

Gospel Challenge 

So here’s the gospel challenge for this week.

  1. In your time of prayer, examine your life and the temptations that continually come to you on a daily basis.
  2. If you are aware of a particular weakness or habit of sin, invite Jesus to be with you.
  3. Ask him by the power of his grace to help you confront that temptation face-to-face.
  4. Ask Jesus to help you become the best version of yourself.
  5. Make these Lenten days a time of spiritual growth and holiness
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February 13, 2022: the Sermon on the Plain

February 13, 2022                       Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Introduction

Frequently when I haven’t seen someone for a long time, I like to catch up with them and find out what they have been up to.

  • We usually discuss what’s happening in their life, how work is going and any significant events that have happened.
  • Then I like to ask them this one question, “are you happy?”
  • Answers usually vary.
  • However, I strongly believe that the one thing each of us wants out of life is happiness.
  • We want to be happy and satisfied.
  • So, this afternoon/morning I ask you, “Are you happy?”

Sermon on the Plain

The readings for Mass this weekend talk to us about happiness.

  • In our gospel we have what is entitled, “The Sermon on the Plain.”
  • Most of us are more familiar with Saint Matthew’s version called “The Sermon on the Mount.
  • Jesus gathers his disciples around him as well as a great crowd who desires to be healed.
  • He begins to teach them about the Kingdom of God. You might think of this as a homily.
  • It is divided into two parts: the first part contains four beatitudes that begin with the words “blessed are you” while the second part begins with the words, “Woe to you,”

Kingdom of God

When Jesus speaks or describes the kingdom of God, he usually begins by saying something to shatter people’s complacency.

  • Complacency can be described as a smug satisfaction with oneself. 
  • In order for the Kingdom of God to break into people’s lives, their world has to be turned upside down.
  • Jesus wants people to know that there is a new order and a new way of thinking.
  • God has a plan for the human family. Jesus‘ words in the gospel today reflect that vision.

Happiness 

His first words are “blessed are you.”

  • The actual word is the Greek word “makarios “.
  • It is best translated as “happy”
  • So each of those four beatitudes might be translated: happy are they who are hungry.
  • happy are they who are poor.
  • happy are they who weep.
  • happy are you when people insult you
  • Somehow that really doesn’t make sense.
  • However, there is a deeper meaning behind the word “makarios
  • That word doesn’t necessarily translate as the common notion of “happy, happy.”
  • To the contrary, it describes the kind of happiness that comes from within. 
  • It is rooted in something that does not change.
  • It bespeaks of a fullness and deep satisfaction that comes from the realization that God loves me and cares for me.
  • This is the kind of happiness that only God gives.

Need for God

The question remains: “How can Jesus say that those who are hungry or poor or hurting are the ones that are blessed or happy?” 

  • The answer is simple:  They are the ones who realize that they are profoundly in need of God.
  • Their source of help or consolation comes from him alone.
  • In that moment of realization, there is an intense openness to the Kingdom and God‘s plan for them.
  • In that moment, there is the explosion of happiness and a deep sense of joy in spite of difficulty.

God created human nature 

God created human beings and human nature.

  • Since he is the source of existence, he knows ultimately what will make people happy.
  • God intends an enduring sense of joy, not fleeting happiness.
  • That is what he intends for the human family.

Paradox

There is a paradox here.

  • Authentic happiness is found in giving and sacrificing for others.
  • It really doesn’t seem to make sense because it would appear that happiness or satisfaction is the result of obtaining something.
  • However, that’s just not true.
  • Happiness in not found in taking but in giving.
  • Think of it this way: when you sacrifice for another person and give something of yourself, there is a deep sense of satisfaction.
  • That satisfaction leads to joy and true happiness.

Contrast of values

In the Sermon on the Plain there is a stark contrast between the values of God’s kingdom and the values of the world. 

  • The Kingdom of God is based upon love, forgiveness, sacrifice and justice.
  • The world bases its values on power, wealth, position and popularity. 
  • The world declares that if you have these things in your life, you will be happy.
  • Those values appear in the second part of Jesus‘s sermon.
  • Jesus declares that true happiness can never to be found there.  
  • The reason why is they are always temporary and external.
  • They can come and they can go.
  • As a result, it is no wonder that Jesus says, “Woe to you rich; woe to you who are satisfied; and woe to you who have position and power.

Uneasiness 

Perhaps that part of Jesus sermon makes people feel uneasy.

  • I am sure that it was Jesus’ intent.
  • That uneasiness should help us look inward and reflect upon our own lives and values.
  • Although The values proclaimed by Jesus may make us feel uncomfortable, there is something deep down inside of us that recognize the power of truth.

Conclusion

God wants us to be blessed.

  • He wants to give us the kind of happiness that will fulfill us in the very depths of our hearts.
  • That happiness can only come from him. 
  • God knows that wealth, power and position will never totally fulfill any human being. 
  • Jesus wants us to flourish.
  • God made each of us and knows what is best for us and what will make us happy.
  • Jesus doesn’t want us to waste our lives. He wants us to live our lives to the full.

Gospel Challenge 

So, here’s the gospel challenge.

  • It is an easy one.
  • After you receive the Lord in Holy Communion, spend a few moments with him.
  • Ask yourself if you are truly happy with your life.
  • If not, what changes do you need to make?
  • Ask Jesus to give you the grace to make those changes.
  • Remember, Jesus died for you and wants you to share his life.
  • He wants you to live your life to its fullest